Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

WU students win prize for shorts program

Janji, a sports apparel company founded by Washington University students, won first place in the 2011 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) Sports/Outdoors Business Plan Competition last weekend.

The company beat out 15 other teams to win the first place prize of $20,000.

“[The competition] was for student entrepreneurs, and most of the semi-finalists ended up being MBA students. We were one of the few [part]undergrad teams in the competition,” said 2011 graduate Dave Spandorfer, co-founder of Janji.

The 2011 UCCS Sports/Outdoors Business Plan Competition had three criteria: a presentation, question and answer session and business plan. The rules required at least half of the principals to be currently enrolled in either college or graduate school.

“It was tough going into a competitive atmosphere with so many established teams that are older. The key is to remain confident throughout the presentation and answer the questions,” senior and Janji co-founder, Michael Burnstein, said. “The average teams [members] were around 28 years old.”

The competition is the first in the world to focus solely on Sports and Outdoors new venture concepts.

“The best part of the event was the feedback we got from judges and the validation of our idea. We know we have a really important cause and a great product. To hear so many people support Janji was really encouraging,” Spandorfer said.

Janji plans to help solve the water shortage and malnutrition crisis throughout the world by engaging runners in America to raise funds and awareness for these problems.

Two varieties of running shorts are available for sale on RunJanji.com. A portion of the proceeds from each purchase will benefit charities in either Kenya or Haiti.

“Run for Kenya” shorts purchases will help supply water to Kenyans via a partnership with Water.org. A portion of proceeds from “Run for Haiti” shorts purchases will go toward the Medika Mamba—a proven nutritional formula made by Meds and Foods for Kids and produced in Haiti.

Currently, only men’s shorts are listed for sale on the website.

The business, originally named Edele, won a $15,000 prize in the Skandalaris Center’s YouthBridge Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition last spring.

“We changed the name because no one could remember how to say it, and it was confusing with the singer Adele,” Spandorfer said. “The word Janji means ‘promise’ [in Malay].”

According to Burnstein, the prize money will help cover general startup costs such as inventory, website construction and graphic design.

Janji is led by current University students Burstein, junior David Hamm, sophomore Sarah Fisher and recent graduates Spandorfer and Kenny Fairleigh. All are currently or have previously been members of Washington University’s cross country team.

Spandorfer is thankful for the University’s support in helping Janji achieve success in the UCCS competition.

“There was no way we could have won without the support of the Skandalaris Center. Their entrepreneurship program and their continual support has been critical in taking Janji from an idea to something real,” he said.

The shorts will be released this February in St. Louis at Big River Running, and nationally this April.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878